When he finishes in Rock Island on Tuesday, he will become the first person to have walked the 320-mile trail, which is not so much a trail as numerous cobbled-together sections of bike paths, highway shoulders and country roads, passing through 41 communities.* With no set trail mapped out, it is up to hikers to determine their route.
In Moline, the blue-eyed Swede with snow-white hair and weather-tanned face was greeted at Moline's Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center by Stephanie Acri, mayor of Moline; Dave Herrell, CEO of Visit Quad-Cities; Dean Mathias, an avid bicyclist who is the Rock Island County volunteer representative of the Rock River Trail, and others.
They had gathered both to celebrate Lidholm's personal accomplishment as well as to draw attention to the Rock River Trail and its recreational and tourism opportunities.
While Mathias offered gifts from Moline — Lagomarcino's chocolates and a caramel apple and Bent River Brewing Co's oatmeal stout — Lidholm, a Moline native now living in Wisconsin, reflected on his journey so far, including that it was very windy on Monday.
With a dry wit, he recounted a day of rain near Oregon, Illinois, a boxer (dog) who kept him "at bay" for about 15 minutes and a time when, walking along a four-lane highway, two pickup trucks veered over toward him as though to run him over before correcting back.
"It was a fright," he said. "I also lost my way a few times."
But all in all, "people were really nice," he said. Several paid for meals and offered him rides. "One young man thought I was homeless and offered me some pizza."
Lidholm averages about 10 miles per day and is a hiking veteran. He walked 850 miles of the Appalachian Trail before double stress fractures in one of his feet forced him to quit, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin (1,200 miles, mostly in the winter, some of it in snowshoes) and a trail in Europe that included the Pyrenees.
Lidholm hikes in a shirt and pants with suspenders, a pair of L.L. Bean Cresta hiking boots that now have logged about 3,500 miles, a Sierra Club backpack and two walking sticks.
At the beginning of his journey, a friend would shuttle him home each night to Watertown, Wisconsin. Once he got into Illinois, volunteer "trail angels" helped move his truck and shuttle him back and forth as he stayed at hotels or with friends/relatives.
* The true end of the Rock River Trail is on Milan’s Big Island, where the Hennepin Canal and Rock River empty into the Mississippi River, but because of flooding, that is inaccessible, bicyclist Mathias said. Instead, Lindholm will conclude at Black Hawk State Historic Site. That will have to do.